Book Review: Hunters of Dune

Hunters of Dune

Hunters of Dune, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, published by Hodder Paperbacks

I first discovered Frank Herbert’s Dune at the impressionable age of 18 and it made a huge impact on me. It was the most exciting book I had ever read. I have re-read it several times since, and it is still the most exciting book I’ve read. Turning its pages, I discovered a far-future world in which interstellar space travel rubbed shoulders with primitive religion and ancient prophecies; and evil tyrants and galactic emperors did battle with powerful corporate conglomerates, human computers, secret societies and good old-fashioned sword-fighting heroes.

During the months between leaving school and starting university I devoured the entire six-book Dune series, from God Emperor to Heretics to Chapterhouse. For me, one of the most intoxicating aspects of the stories was the way that the reader became privy to meetings in which the fate of whole star systems –  galaxies, even – was decided, not by epic space battles, but my men and women sitting down to broker deals. It was obvious that these super-powerful people were extraordinarily intelligent and cunning. They concocted plans within plans, plots within plots. They anticipated every possible way the discussions might play out, and came prepared. The genius of Frank Herbert was to reveal the intricacies of these political negotiations and make you feel that you were just as smart as these impossibly-clever players.

I was mesmerised. And then… in the very last chapter of the final book, two completely new characters were introduced out of the blue, and it was obvious that they were perhaps the most powerful beings in the whole series, holding the fate of the universe in their hands. I waited patiently for the seventh book.

I waited, and waited…

Frank Herbert died in 1986, a year after the final book was published. What was I to do? Nothing could be done. The story was lost forever.

And then…

In 1999, Frank herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, together with  Kevin J Anderson began writing and publishing a series of six Dune prequels. Initial reviews were lukewarm, and I resisted the temptation to read the new books, fearing they might spoil the Dune experience for me. In 2006, they published Hunters of Dune, a seventh book in the main Dune sequence, and then a concluding book, Sandworms of Dune. I was tempted, but once again the reviews were strongly negative. How could these new books possibly be as good as the originals? Surely they were just cashing in shamelessly on a legend.

I wish now that I had ignored all those negative reviews. Finally, more than thirty years after finishing the original books, I took the plunge and bought a copy of Hunters of Dune. It turned out to be a fabulous book, just as engrossing as Frank Herbert’s stories, and in many ways better structured and more exciting than some of the later, more ponderous books in the Dune sequence. Now, finally I know the identities of the mysterious old man and woman who appeared at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, and what they have planned for the universe. I can’t wait to read more, and am eager to get stuck into the Legends of Dune trilogy before returning to the main sequence and reading Sandworms of Dune. “Kralizec” – the long-foretold battle at the end of the universe – awaits.

So if you’re a Dune fan and have any lingering fears about whether Brian’s books are as good as his father’s I would simply leave you with the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear and remind you that, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”

16 responses to “Book Review: Hunters of Dune

  1. Sometimes I surprise myself. E.g., I’ve never read any of the Dune books. You make it look interesting though 🙂

  2. An interesting review, It is always strange when a novelist dies and someone else finishes off their work but from your review it appear that it appears to have worked in this case

    Good to see you back blogging again.

    • I guess we’re much more familiar with the idea of TV and film being collaborative. The role of “author” tends to be seen as a solo, heroic task. I personally think that’s an unnecessarily narrow view (but since I write books with my wife, I’m bound to say that!)

  3. I enjoyed the original Dune immensely, but struggled with the sequels, stopping after God Emperor. I have heard a lot of good things about the Anderson / Herbert books, all of it from fans, not professional reviewers. No doubt the new books aren’t completely true to Frank Herbert’s vision, but then I doubt FH’s later books were necessarily true to his original vision anyway.

    Would you say Heretics and Chapterhouse have to be read to enjoy Hunters?

    • Hunters builds on the events and characters that were introduced in Heretics and Chapterhouse. You could just dive in to Hunters and you would probably pick up the relevant facts as you read, but for a deeper understanding and a familiarity with the key characters (Sheeana, Murbella, the bashar Miles Teg, the current Duncan Idaho ghola) you would need either to read the other two books or at least read a synopsis of the plot.

      Many people struggled with the lengthy navel gazing of God Emperor, but I think you’d find that Heretics and Chapterhouse are faster moving and less ponderous. I really enjoyed them.

      • Thanks. I didn’t realize things picked up after God Emperor. And it’s been decades since I read the original books, and my tastes have changed, so maybe I should give the series another chance.

        • The biggest shift is that, starting with Heretics, the focus becomes the Bene Gesserits, with the Mother Superior as the main protagonist. They are trying to save the universe from the forces unleashed by the god emperor Leto II, and the Scattering that followed the Famine Times.

  4. I remember the times in my life when I was captivated by a series of books as some of the happiest of times. It happens too rarely that I find a series that I love, but it’s just one of life’s best moments.
    As you know, I’ve been on this journey with math. There is a book that I read that I enjoyed so thoroughly that I it’s hard to express. I’ve wondered why no one I know has read it, but then I discovered that it was almost universally panned by people. I attributed this to that fact that it’s about calculus, but, omg, written with humor and wit and insight. I am so glad that I didn’t read the reviews before I read the book otherwise I would have never read it. The book BTW is A Tour of the Calculus by David Berlinski –

    • Yes, those rare occasions when a book is so absorbing and compelling that it becomes more important than the real world – those are times to treasure.

      You intrigued me enough to read the description of A Tour of the Calculus. It does sound interesting. As you say, many reviewers seem to hate it, but I would trust your judgement over a hundred random people any day! I may take a closer look if I am feeling in a clever mood.

  5. I was pretty unimpressed with House Atreides, so I haven’t touched the other Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson books. But I don’t know. I am kind of curious about the old man and the old woman at the end of Chapterhouse, so maybe I’ll give this book a chance.

  6. You’re not gonna believe this. I read Dune, but I didn’t realize it was a series.

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